TRIGGER WARNING: MENTIONS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE, WAR AND CONFLICT
WHAT IS FEMINIST FOREIGN POLICY?
The Canadian, Swedish, and Norwegian governments have all espoused feminist foreign policy in their work abroad, but what exactly does this mean? The Canadian Government ambitiously announced that their international assistance policy will be adopting a feminist framework, “Canada is adopting a Feminist International Assistance Policy that seeks to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world. Canada firmly believes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving this goal.” According to the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, its definition is “is a political framework centered around the wellbeing of marginalized people and invokes processes of self-reflection regarding foreign policy’s hierarchical global systems. FFP takes a step outside the black-box approach of traditional foreign policy thinking and its focus on military force, violence, and domination by offering an alternate and intersectional rethinking of security from the viewpoint of the most vulnerable. It is a multidimensional policy framework that aims to elevate women’s and marginalized groups’ experiences and agency to scrutinize the destructive forces of patriarchy, colonization, hetero normativity, capitalism, racism, imperialism, and militarism.”
RAPE AS A WEAPON OF WAR
Sexual violence as a weapon of war plays a key force in creating feminist foreign policy frameworks. As recognized by Security Council resolution that stated: “women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group…immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians.”
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
At the heart of the feminist foreign policy is acknowledging that development is impossible when half of humanity is neglected in the process. The feminist foreign policy recognizes the importance of dismantling the deep roots of the patriarchy in virtually every society on earth. It speaks to how international development initiatives must address the societal and systemic inequalities that women and girls routinely face. As upheld by the Norwegian government, the upholding of rights for women and girls in “peacekeeping, peacebuilding and development assistance” is paramount in ensuring sustainability in peaceful pursuits. When women and girls are removed from the picture, it breeds conflict and instability as a major group of people are left in marginalization.
The Government of Canada announced they will establish a Feminist International Assistance Policy while working in the spirit of their core goal of eradicating poverty. The Canadian government acknowledges that inequality is at the heart of poverty, and only through reducing and dismantling inequality will we be able to eliminate poverty. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty. This phenomenon is known as the feminization of poverty, as 70% of the world’s poor are women.
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
Foreign policy has long been dominated by a male-centric point of view, leaving women out of the conversation. Without having women and gender-diverse individuals in the decision-making and policy-formulation process, there will be little progress made in the areas of improving rights and freedom for women and girls. By advocating for feminism in foreign policy, it ensures that the guidelines will directly benefit marginalized populations, like women and girls, in the Far Periphery countries. Without the rights of women, there is no progress, no peace, and no future.
“A feminist foreign policy views conflict through a gendered lens and sees how patriarchal structures fuel violence and conflicts, especially in societies where masculinity is militarized. Therefore, a feminist foreign policy should be anti-militaristic and put human security at the centre. It recognizes the gendered impacts of weapon proliferation, where unequal power structures, both in the home and in society, become even stronger when men are armed. It chooses diplomacy over the use of force, preventing violent conflict instead of waging war.
The main challenge for implementing a feminist foreign policy is a lack of consistency. There is a clear conflict between Sweden’s strong standpoint for women’s rights and democracy and its weapons export to dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand. And why did the Swedish government buy helicopters that are too expensive to fly, while women are being forced to give birth in cars because the closest hospital has been shut down? The failure lies in the lack of political will, as well as not putting your money where your mouth is. A feminist foreign policy does not allow other interests, such as economic ones, to override women’s irreversible human rights.”